HOUSTON, June 23 (Reuters) - An undersea accident forced BP Plc BP.LBP.N to shut down a key system collecting oil from its blown-out Macondo well early on Wednesday, unleashing a torrent of oil, the top U.S. oil spill official said.
A containment cap that had been channeling over 16,000 barrels per day to a surface vessel was removed after an undersea robot apparently collided with it, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at a news briefing in Washington.
The system could restart later on Wednesday, Allen said.
Allen also reported two deaths of workers helping with the oil spill response. The deaths did not appear work-related but were under investigation, he said.
A team of U.S. scientists estimates the leak is spewing up to 60,000 barrels a day.
Reporting by Kristen Hays, Editing by Doina Chiacu
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